Archive for September, 2009

Champs League – Round 2…..zzzzzzzz

A much more exciting format for a competition than the Champs League

A much more exciting format for a competition than the Champs League

The group phase of the Champions league tends to bore the tears out of most viewers. The primary phase of the competition has been diluted due to the inclusion of just about every team in Europe. Of course that is an exaggeration, but with the exception of a couple of matches most games tend to offer little or no excitement on paper. Obviously thats why they play the games, but even if FK Rubin Kazan were to beat Barcelona at home, the chances of them maintaining that form to qualify to the knockout stages is slim to none.

Now i grew up elsewhere (Europe) but i believe there is no finer competition/cup setup for excitement and drama than the college bball NCAA tourney. Yes the FA Cup, Copa del Rey etc… are great competitions with a similar win or you’re out format but it takes place over a very long time. March madness takes place over a month, pretty much the entire country gets involved, the players die for their teams and its just plain awesome. The best team or at the very least the team that can maintain a consistent form usually wins the whole thing. There are ALWAYS upsets.

With the current champs league format, where as you might not be able to predict each and every game, you can be fairly certain which teams will progress. Some teams pretty much win their group with 1 or 2 remaining games and then field out weaker teams so that their fringe/younger players get a run out. That’s great for them but do fans really want to see no names like Michael Owen when they paid to see Wayne Rooney etc…

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A Fun Square Pass to 2010 Roster Ponderings

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TSG readers Nick and Matthew N combined to give me a very good idea to kick off our “World Cup 2010 Roster” conversations.

Hangeland: Nationally, but not vertically challenged

Hangeland: Nationally, but not vertically challenged

If you’ve noticed TSG hasn’t really commented yet on who we think goes, doesn’t go to South Africa as we’ve still got a little less than a year left and there is a lot to sort out–not least of which is, who is injured or even eligible?

While Nick and I chatted about stars of yesteryear making roster cameos, Friedel and McBride to be precise, we’re going to shelve that piece for discussion in a little bit and come out with a pie-in-the-sky “What Could Have Been?” the starting eleven in 2010.

Here’s just a little fun for your Monday: (and I had fun too, I went with a 4-2-3-1 which I’m not sure is a legitimate formation and is illegal in 37 countries.)

*Remember, this….is…just…for…fun. Not our opinion on line-ups or formation. Most already know my feeling on the formation.

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Eric Lichaj, Brede Hangeland, Neven Subotic, Jonathan Spector

MID:  Jermaine Jones, Benny Feilhaber

FW: Landon Donovan, Giuseppi Rossi, Clint Dempsey

STR: Jozy Altidore

THREE SUBS: Charlie Davies, Stu Holden, Edgar Castillo

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Guzan the Heir to Friedel? Believe That

Yes....

Yes....

Let’s say this one sounds a bit fish and chippy…and that it’s hard to sell newspapers–oops we couldn’t get the score of the “late game”–not only in the U.S., but overseas these day.

Sunday People in the UK is “reporting” that Aston Villa will make a bid for Sunderland wicketmaster Martin Fulop,  with American Brad Friedel not getting younger. Fulop is currently #2 on the depth charts behind Craig Gordon, but widely considered an in-demand netminder.

This, of course, would leave USMNTer Brad Guzan on the outside looking in for more playing time.

...And probably no.

...And probably no.

We say, “Not happening. Conjecture.” So if you hear other folks reporting this take it with a grain of salt…unless it happens of course.

Fulop has been linked with  everybody from Ipswitch Town (Roy Keane his former Sunderland coach wants him) to Greek club, Panathinaikos. The Sunderland message boards seem to agree with the sensationalism as well.

Additionally, Guzan has looked stellar between the posts earlier this year in winning the Peace Cup and most recently as Villa’s keeper of choice for the Carling Cup battles. And let’s be honest, Friedel has looked beyond airtight this year as well.

Finally, the Villians, as we’ve mentioned before, should probably focus on a Gareth Barry replacement….we like Tottenham’s Jermaine Jenas for that role.

After posting this, another thought came to mind: Quick, Tim Howard goes down (heaven forbid) in Game 1 of the group stage of WC 2010. Who do you want between the sticks: Guzan…Perkins? Or Hahnemann?…Or what about, yes, Friedel?

Saturday Soccer: Americans All Over

Wow, a great Saturday of soccer is nearly in the books….at least for the games we previewed.

Some observations:

Fulham just lost to Arsenal 1-0. Fulham played Arsenal pretty much even throughout the entire match and it was a Robin Van Persie first touch and shot in the 52nd–that the announcer called “delicious,” loved that–that was the difference.

More on this game:

Hangeland: What could have been...

Hangeland: What could have been...

I kept watching the central defense of Fulham and wondering what could have been for the USMNT if Brede Hangeland had favored the U.S. over Norway. After a shaky first ten minutes, Hangeland was super solid in the middle.

Loved Fulham skipper Roy Hodgson’s strategy. Hodgson had his charges challenging and trapping Arsenal way up the pitch, above the halfline,  forcing them to go over the top and challenge Hangeland, Konchesky and the defense in the air as oppose to build momentum through linking passes through the middle.  Fulham mastered that strategy in the first, however tired in the 2nd which started to see more combinations from Arsenal.

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Whatever It Takes: AO’s Trip To SLC

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Thanks Matthew for picking up the torch in my absence this week. With a few hours before the Great American Beer Festival in Denver today, I wanted to post a long overdue (on my behalf) story from our friend Justin Brunken of The American Outlaws.

As we lament the lack of television coverage for the Honduras game, not to mention the hub-bub around the circumstances of the game in Honduras, there is always another way to guarantee you see the game.

Be in the stands.

That’s just what Justin and buddies try to do for each USMNT game. They’re the guys yelling, singing and supporting the USMNT. They’re the guys trying to make things just a little tougher for whomever the opponent may be. They’re the guys organizing trips across our country as well as to places where the term “military coup” is part of the everyday vernacular.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the story of Justin and friends’ now legendary journey to the recent match versus El Salvador in Salt Lake City. Not only will the tale make you laugh, but you begin to understand how eleven guys on a field wearing red-white-and-blue can bring folks from around the country together in a way that transcends merely cheering for a team.

It's all worth it!

It's all worth it!

Thanks for helping us understand, Justin.

Click here to read Justin’s story.

It’s U.S.A vs. Honduras…At a Bar Near You!

To see the current, but growing list of English-broadcast view locations click here.

This is Part 2 (and maybe the final one) to our Part 1 on USA-Honduras WCQ TV Rights.

Well, we’re still digging over here at TSG. We’ll keep digging up until 10/10. Then we’ll take a vacation to the Kandui Island.

How deep have we dug? At this point, we’re looking through binoculars now, although we have not adjusted the focus and the view is still a little fuzzy. That’s where we are.

US fans are getting the rough treat from Honduras as well.

US fans are getting rougher treatment than Rogers just trying to watch the game.

TSG had a few follow-ups this week with Media World, the company that is handling Media World’s close circuit distribution, a USMNT-devoted bar owner, and Traffic Sports USA.

Today’s conversation with the Vice President of Traffic Sports USA Enrique Sanz de Santamaria was by far the most illuminating from a background perspective. Sanz de Santamaria is responsible for TV Rights for Traffic Sports USA and is based out of Miami. Traffic Sports USA handles most of the broadcast rights distribution for games from Central and South America.

Every USMNT fan should remember that (“very long”) name above because Sanz had really no vested interest in speaking with TSG and if he is/was misquoted stands to lose more, yet he took the time to carefully lay out the landscape of broadcast rights management in the region, provide us some hypotheticals and, in general, educate TSG.

And an additional note on Traffic Sports USA, all those away 2010 US WCQ games that you’ve seen on ESPN was the results of deals through Traffic Sports.

A big thank you to Mr. Sanz from TSG and our readers.

Here’s what we learned that we didn’t know:

• Each National Federation controls the rights of their home games but all of them are under CONCACAF and FIFA.

• Traffic Sports USA had a legal dispute with the Honduras Federation over who had the rights to broadcast the game. A court ruling gave the Honduras Federation the right to keep the contract they have with Media World.

Now for the good stuff:

• It seems close circuit distribution is still a viable way to make good money on a TV broadcast, specifically when you analyze the number of Hondurans in the United States, the per establishment rate for a game, and the Hondurans passions for their country sport. (I would love some feedback from a bar whose primary demographic is Hondurans–it would be valuable to this story I believe)

• Residential PPV is actually a new model for distributing these games. Hence, our suggestion earlier this week that the game be made available via residential pay per view now comes at a discount, because the economics are not tried, tested and true. It’s more of a risk for the rights holder.

• Finally, Sanz surmises (and I must highlight surmises) that negotiations at this point between MediaPro and the TV Networks, given the close circuit efforts to date and the timing until the broadcast, are likely over. The past statement is, at best, a guess (though from someone who has been there) and should be received as such.

Take a good look at Estadio Olympica. Next time you'll see it is at a bar.

Take a good look at Estadio Olympica. Next time you'll see it is at a bar.

So where does that leave the USMNT fan? Probably at their local pub. Where does that leave the average under-21 fan who FIFA and should care about? SOL.

Thankfully, there are bar owners like Phil McFarland, who owns the Small Bar on Division Street in Chicago and is a very passionate supporter of the Yanks.

In our first plug since the Free Benny t-shirt endeavor, we’re promoting Phil’s bar for our Chicago readers come 10/10.

No, we don’t get a kickback, but you get to visit a bar where the owner is passionate about U.S. soccer, where the owner is attentive to his patronage’s affinity enough to seek out how to get the game, and perhaps more incredibly,  a bar where you get Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY!), North Coast (a favorite brewer of mine) and Bitburger on tap. I don’t know if there are cakes in the urinals, but everything else sounds grand.

Back to our story, Phil was helpful in letting us know that typical close circuit sports feeds go for anywhere between $250 – $1000 for his establishment. Feeds are sometimes charged by occupancy rate so the actual fee can vary.

The fee for the U.S. Honduras game for Phil’s bar: $1020.

Additionally, as Phil pointed out, it’s the big fighting matches–which are heavily promoted in advance by the contenders–that fetch the top dollars. Certainly not a U.S.-Honduras game getting sporadic press with a smaller fanbase in the U.S.

In Phil’s own words:

“We don’t ever do PPV anything. But that’s more than big boxing events, which are usually really hyped in the media before hand. Really too bad, not a great time for restricted access to USMNT…

We’ll pay it and try to charge a cover to recoup. Def a crap shoot.”

Thanks for taking the risk on your side Phil. If we were Windy City folk, I’d get there early and run up a huge Hennepin tab.

So it would seem there is a premium being put on this game and if bars/establishments are willing to pay the top dollar and MediaPro can make back their investment and then some, it would be logical for them to go the close circuit route.

What do fans do with their angst then? Sadly, or thankfully, however you look at it, since this is unique to WCQ events, it is probably the last time through 2010 that USMNT games will be confronted with this unique situation.

The L.A. Times reported yesterday of an upcoming friendly for the U.S. team in the Netherlands (we knew our Heitinga comments would come to pass!) in March of next year. U.S. Soccer should be able to have a say in how broadcast rights are distributed in this one.

So the best bet is if your 21, head to your local bar.

If you’re under 21, fly out to San Francisco and we’ll sneak you in somewhere.

How about preventing this for next time? Well, in four years, maybe everyone will forget these broadcast issues. But I’m going to put this on U.S. Soccer to educate and keep the populace informed in advance of how broadcast rights are doled out.

Why? It seem to me that a Honduras game against say…Lichtenstein (no offense) would be less of a draw than against the United States.

So, while it probably won’t come to pass that FIFA will change their “your house, your rules” decisioning in broadcast rights–by mandating anything that is restrictive at all, FIFA would compromise the leverage of the broadcast negotiations and essentially everyone would lose–big nations (Italy, U.S., England, Brazil) are the only ones that could push FIFA to do anything differently.

That being said, the U.S. might compromise revenues from their games, which arguably fetch a higher dollar, than said Lichtenstein so the U.S. might lose as well.

A convoluted situation all around.

We’ve reached out again to CONCACAF, FIFA, and asked U.S. Soccer for any additional comment. We’ll post those if or when they come in.

Oh and one more note, I noted this article where Traffic Sports USA made the game available via PPV. It appeared to me that CONCACAF president and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, a Trinidadian, stepped in made sure the game would be available to the T&T demographic in the U.S. via pay-per-view. So it appears there’s a precedent of FIFA officials stepping in…but maybe only when it matters to them individually.

BAR OWNERS: If you’re a bar owner showing the USA-Honduras soccer match, send us an email at shinguardian@gmail.com and we’ll add you to our “bar roll” on the right sidebar.

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